La tarte à l’oignon de Caroline

Onion tart

Another recipe courtesy of a cooking lesson from a neighbour. I have previously known this as Alsatian onion tart, a concoction of slowly cooked onions, cream, an egg, and grated cheese. Caroline’s version is vastly superior; she skips the egg, saying that adding egg means it’s “just a quiche”. And she caramelises the onions slightly and spices it with cayenne and paprika, which make all the difference. Easy to do, and really delicious served lukewarm with a glass of chilled rosé.
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Tatin d’aubergines de Sandrine

Aubergine tatin

A neighbour who is renowned for her superb aubergine tart kindly submitted to pressure to reveal her secrets in an informal cookery lesson, held outdoors on a sunny day. We produced five magnificent tarts, which were shared along with glasses of chilled rosé. I will happily make these for guests, as a substantial starter or light main course.

Beyond the aubergines and tomato sauce, you can vary the other ingredients according to taste and whether you need it to be vegetarian. We used combinations of chopped black olives, chorizo, and anchovies. I think blobs of onion confit or pesto could be good as well. For the cheese, we used slices of a log of goat’s cheese. But you could substitute other soft cheeses: feta, mozzarella, sheep’s cheese …

White aubergines

Other ingredient notes: Sandrine recommends white aubergines; she thinks they are sweeter and more tender. She normally uses her own home-made passata for the tomato sauce, but you can use bought passata or pasta sauce instead. Likewise, for the pastry, either make shortcrust or buy it ready-made. Don’t use puff pastry though, it is too fatty for this recipe.
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Pride of the Punjab

I got a Label Rouge free-range chicken on special offer, only 7 euros, and decided I fancied a change. Suddenly I remembered a recipe from an ancient Josceline Dimbleby book, one of those little ones they used to sell in Sainsbury’s in the 1980s, for, I think, 50p. A Traveller’s Tastes, it’s called, and it’s divided into sections of half a dozen recipes from different parts of the world. She has been pretty much forgotten now (try Googling her to see what I mean, the results are scanty). But most pages of this book are spattered with sauces and other ingredients — I used to use it a lot. See also … this blanquette still features on our menu regularly over thirty years after I bought the book. This is another of her recipes that deserves a wider audience.

This recipe is from the “India and Burma” section. Unusually for an Indian recipe, it features a whole chicken. It’s easy to do and the sauce is deliciously aromatic. I serve it with simply boiled Basmati rice; a green vegetable is a good idea too. Get started early because it needs to marinate for at least an hour.
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Pasta ai funghi

Pasta and mushrooms
I already have a go-to pasta and mushrooms recipe, but Felicity Cloake’s “perfect” version looked intriguingly different, so I gave it a try. I can recommend it — more fiddly to make, but it has an interestingly complex flavour. I adapted it a bit — she recommends whizzing the dried mushrooms to a powder and using it as a thickener, but that seemed like a recipe for grit in your sauce. Instead I soaked them and then chopped very small, and used the water (minus grit!) in the sauce. Also I used a herby white vermouth rather than the white wine or sherry she recommends and I think this really helped the flavour. I used dried tagliatelle, but I think this is a sauce that would go really well with fresh.
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Espinacas con Garbanzos: spinach and chickpeas

Spinach and chickpeas

This is a classic Seville tapa: every bar has a version of it. It might not sound exciting, but you will never regret trying it. It’s delicious and much healthier than the many deep-fried or meat-heavy tapas available. Suitable for vegans as well as vegetarians. We don’t often have it as a tapa at home — it makes a great light lunch or first course, with some flatbread. I use the recipe from my favourite Spanish cookbook, Anya von Bremzen’s The New Spanish Table, which I can’t recommend too highly.
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Quick thin-crust pizza

Pizza
Steve decided to make pizza for dinner yesterday. He googled a recipe as he usually does, and amazingly turned out two excellent pizzas less than an hour later. Almost as quick as a takeaway. We’ll definitely make this our default pizza recipe. It’s based on one from theKitchn, which I’ve converted from cup measures. There’s basically almost no rising time, apart from the time you spend preparing toppings. He did a selection: ham, mushrooms, and artichokes; prawns; and pear and gorgonzola, a favourite of ours (no tomato on this one). Baked on a pizza stone, but you can use a solid preheated baking tray turned upside-down.

Note: if you’re not in a hurry, you can let the dough rise till doubled, divide it in two, then put in sealed containers and refrigerate overnight. Give it 10-15 minutes to come to room temperature before shaping.
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Duck breast with dried fruit sauce

I had a recipe something like this years ago, off a packet of duck breast — now lost, but this is more or less a re-creation of it. Delicious and easy. I used PX sherry, but use whatever sweet wine you fancy — port or madeira would work too. Serve with something to mop up the sauce: mashed potato, rice, or just good bread. This amount serves two (we never eat a whole magret each).
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Pasta with sauce forestière

Made up by Steve on the spur of the moment based on what was in the fridge and pantry. Definitely worth repeating; it was delicious. It’s the caramelised onions that raise it above the ordinary, so give yourself plenty of time to get them well coloured. It’s called forestière because of the combination of artichokes and mushrooms.
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Vegetarian chilli

Adapted from a recipe in the Slimming World magazine — a useful source of low-calorie recipes that don’t compromise on flavour. I cooked my lentils from scratch, but if you’re lazy or in a hurry, you can use a can. A very easy midweek dinner.
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Ham, leek, and potato pie

Based on a recipe from BBC Good Food; adapted to make it a bit more Slimming World friendly (OK, pastry will never be syn-free, but the rest of it almost is). It may sound fairly ordinary, but it was really delicious and well worth repeating — it’s the mustard that really makes it shine. If you’re not on a diet you can use crème fraîche instead of quark, but we found the quark worked really well; the flour in the sauce stops it curdling. The original recipe specified puff pastry, but we just used home-made shortcrust and it was fine. In fact thinking about it, you could maybe use a few layers of filo pastry on top to reduce fat further. It’s best to make the filling ahead of time and let it cool before adding the pastry.
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